As Victoria enters day four of its five-day “circuit-breaker” lockdown, the state’s event industry has shared the severe impact the lockdown is having on their businesses and livelihoods.
In response to a new cluster of COVID-19 cases, the lockdown came into effect at 11:59pm Friday 12 February and requires all Victorian residents to stay home.
During the lockdown, gatherings are not permitted and residents can only leave their home for the purposes of shopping for necessary goods and services, care and caregiving, exercise and permitted work.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said this is a “brief window” of opportunity to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“By limiting our movement, we limit the potential spread of the virus,” he said. “And by going hard and going early – we’re giving ourselves every opportunity to get in front of this.”
The long-term impact on events
Following the announcement, Simon Thewlis, the event professional behind the Save Victorian Events campaign, surveyed a number of industry professionals to gauge the impact of the five-day lockdown.
“A snap survey overnight has shown this has already caused many events – as far out as September – to be cancelled or moved interstate because the little confidence in holding events in Victoria that was left is now gone,” he said.
“We expect this to get worse as the week progresses.”
According to Thewlis, 94 per cent of respondents said the lockdown will have an impact on people being willing to hold events in Victoria and 92 per cent believe the lockdown will have an ongoing impact on their work and income.
Respondents also shared the following:
“We have lost all of our hire and styling orders for this weekend. All work performed by our staff in the lead up to these events has produced zero revenue and we still have to pay our staff.”
“People were just starting to book events and activities again and are nervous about paying money because of fear if exactly this type of no notice lockdown action.”
“Something has to change. There was already a huge skills shortage now we are loosing a generation of skills and expertise that we cant replace who are finding whatever work they can elsewhere and wont come back.”
“This latest lockdown has cancelled events scheduled to go ahead after positive changes to guidelines on event gatherings. My business is gone without an extension to govt welfare and business relief mechanisms.”
“My biggest event meant to be tonight. I was working on it for 1.5 years. Most deliveries were already made yesterday prior to announcement. I am devastated.”
“Currently by the end of March I will be living on the street.”
Group calls for government action
Thewlis says the response from the events industry shows the urgent need for government action to build and maintain confidence in events.
“The very real fear that the event might be cancelled and all those involved might lose everything is now the single biggest thing stopping events happening in Victoria,” he said.
“No commercial insurance company will currently insure against this risk. Many organisations do not have the ability to cope with the huge financial costs of a last minute cancellation of their event – as it would send them broke.”
Thewlis is calling on the government to consider a “COVID cancel insurance” to cover the costs of COVID-related event cancellations, similar to a program launched in Germany.
Financial support is also high on the agenda for the Save Victorian Events campaign, as the JobKeeper program nears its March deadline.
Thewlis is calling on the Victorian Government to implement direct financial support for the events industry and looks to Tasmania as an good example.
“Late last year [the Tasmanian Government] gave event industry businesses, including suppliers, grants of up to $100,000 to help them to survive and to enable them to gear up again for the return of events,” he said.
“We desperately need a similar program in Victoria.”
Calls for lockdown compensation
In the wake of the lockdown, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is calling for a “substantial and targeted assistance package” for the industries most affected by the five-day lockdown including hospitality, events, accommodation, fresh food sellers and producers and florists.
“What Victorian business needs urgently now is the confidence and certainty that we can return to work in a COVID-normal environment on Thursday so we can get back on the path to recovery that we were navigating so well before this latest hotel quarantine breach,” said chief executive Paul Guerra.
“It will be the death knell for hundreds, if not thousands of businesses, if this goes on any longer.
“The State Government needs to give businesses some guidelines around what the thresholds for lockdowns and restrictions are: we can’t just go from up and running to complete lockdown. Just a week ago, Victoria was on the road to recovery and then suddenly, the whole state is locked down with less than 12 hours’ notice.”
The chamber is expecting an announcement from the State Government on the matter in the next 24 hours.